The First Amendment guarantees us five basic rights immediately. These were rights that were stifled by the British Empire when it controlled the American Colonies. Every single one of the rights in this amendment are central to us as Americans and to help us stand up for rights as individuals.
- Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Let’s take this one at a time:
- Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
The British Empire’s official religion was the Church of England and they were very powerful. They persecuted anyone who was not of this religion. This included: Catholics, Orthodox Churches, Quakers, and Puritans, and many others. These subgroups were forbidden to practice, and while they were able to practice more openly in the colonies, they never forgot the persecution they had under the Church of England.
The first half says that the US government does not have an official religion, so it cannot choose one for itself and then force other religions to go into a formation with it or put pressure on other religions to teach their doctrines.
The second half guarantees that the government cannot prevent citizens from openly practicing in public. There are anti-religious groups in this country that like sue small towns, schools, churches, and pretty much any Christian or Jewish organization that display a cross and such on public land. They got prayer banned from schools and are trying to get Bible scriptures, crosses, fishes, menorahs, etc. banned as well. This is completely against what the Founding Fathers envisioned.
Cheerleaders and students should be allowed to wear shirts or carry signs that talk about their faith, whatever their religion. That is not the government establishing a religion. These are citizens practicing their rights!
- Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press
When I write an article critical of the government or speak at an event where I criticize the government that is freedom of the press and speech. Before, I would’ve been labeled a dissenter and arrested under British law. This right allows me to say what I want when I want and where I want. I have frequently said I am not a journalist, I am a commentator, but that is still the press and I can write as I please. I can say what I want as I please. I speak on freedom, Judeo-Christian values, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and no one in the government can stop me.
- Congress shall make no law… prohibiting… the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
When we hold events where people come together for an issue, like scriptures taught in school, or Pro-Life, or critical of the IRS Scandals, or Christian and Family values, this part of the First Amendment guarantees that we can do that! We are allowed to assemble and to petition our grievances to the government and to say what we want. We can declare the change we desire and as long as it peaceful with no violence, they cannot stop us.
What makes the First Amendment matter? Every single one of these rights.